This post has been inspired by my friends Hayley, Faye and Debbie who are racing in Blackpool this weekend so I thought I’d pass on some words of wisdom. Everyone has their own goal, whether it’s a 5k race for life or a 100k ultra marathon, but the means by which you get there and the feelings you go through on the day are all very similar so I’m hoping this provides some food for thought whatever your challenge is.
On your marks (the night before)…
- Make sure your running kit is tried and tested and get it all laid out ready for you in the morning to save you time, especially if you’re travelling far to your race destination.
- Pack your bags. If it’s a long race make sure you’ve got some gels and water in your bum bag and for any distance it’s always good to have a bag with water, a hoodie and some food in the car or with a willing supporter for when you’ve finished. Get your safety pins ready too in case they don’t give them out.
- Plan your meal the night before and make sure it includes carbs and protein. White pasta is better as it doesn’t work its way through your body as quickly, which is usually a bad thing, but come race day you’ll be pleased about this (in a similar vein consider buying some Imodium as an emergency if you do get caught short during the race and haven’t yet mastered the art of al fresco toilet visits a la Paula Radcliffe) .
Get set (that morning) …
- Eat early to give your body time to digest your food, and have some lemon and hot water to get things moving so to speak.
- Check the weather and be prepared for every eventuality. If it’s bad weather consider taking an old jumper you’re happy to chuck or a bin bag to wrap around you. The worst bit of race day is waiting around and you’ll have a negative start to the day if you’re drenched before even passing the start line (speaking from experience unfortunately). But on the other hand put some sun cream on if it’s going to be warm. I usually struggle to catch the sun at the best of times but we both got really burnt during Canalathon.
- Get there early…but not too early. You don’t want to be rushing to the start line and sweating before you even get there, but you also don’t want to be waiting around for hours. There’s enough nervous energy buzzing around to drive you crazy, you don’t want to be there longer than you have to be.
Go (during the race)…
- Keep your pace! It’s so tempting to get carried away with the crowd as soon as you all set off but you need to stay confident in your pace or you’ll end up paying for it later on. It can be really disheartening watching loads of people rush past you (especially if you’re right at the front like we were in canalathon!) but don’t get swept up in it! Chances are you’ll overtake most of them when they start walking at the next mile or so don’t let them put you off your natural pace.
- Keep an eye on the mile markers. If you’re unsure which mile you’re on you may find yourself hallucinating that you’re on the final mile when in fact you’ve only just set off. It helps you mentally tick off each mile as you pass the markers and usually keeps spirits high if you know where you are and can see the next goal ahead.
- Support your fellow runners. It’s really nice to meet people and have a chat during a race (if you can talk and run at the same time) – we forged an impromptu film club with a woman on mile 9 of the Blackpool half, which saw us through some tough times. You’ll probably never see these people again, so say hello and give the odd thumbs up when you can – you might need their encouragement later on.
- Watch out for the photographers! I learnt this the hard way after being nicknamed the Hunchback of Nottingham by Jak after our marathon last September. Seasoned pro Al can spot them a mile off so always gives me a heads up. You’ll thank me for this (as I do every time to her) when you look through race pictures the next day!
- Enjoy it! It will probably be one of the best and worst things you’ve even done, but don’t let how hard it is stop you enjoying it. I read an article recently that likened marathon running to child birth (having only done one I can’t speak from experience) in that your body naturally forgets the amount of pain you were in and you’ll be left with more happy memories than bad, so try to remember that the pain is temporary but the feeling of accomplishment and pride lasts forever. Cheesy but true!
And finally… good luck girls!
If you’ve got any tips for them or anyone else post them in the comments below, the more the merrier and there may be some that we can adopt for our next, as yet undecided, challenge!
All pictures taken by us or from Pinterest